Film – Victoria & Abdul

Film – Victoria & Abdul


The ignorance of the English is portrayed from the very start of this film. Two Indian men are picked to make a commemorative presentation to Queen Victoria in England.

From the opening scene, I relish settling down to see a film about India before partition when everyone was Indian, rather than Muslim, Sikh or Hindu. As many of the stories about partition have testified, everyone looked the same, spoke the same and ate the same food.

Of course we know by the names of the aforementioned gents, Abdul and Mohammed, that they are, in fact Muslim but they are referred to as the Hindu’s by everyone in the Royal household and indeed by Parliament; they are too polite to correct the Brits.

I recall hearing about this story being uncovered when Abdul’s notes were found; it was either told by someone on stage at a book event or on the radio, I can’t remember which. The talk was of how, growing up in Britain, we never heard about the impact of this country’s habit of going into other lands and claiming them as their own.

The 70 year anniversary of India’s independence has bought us many films and documentaries where I’ve learnt of the long campaign to end Britain’s rule of this huge nation. I knew about Ghandi’s peaceful protest, of the many thousands who lost their lives when crossing from India to the newly created Pakistan and the non-Muslims coming back the other way. What transpires is that millions lost their homes and everything they knew in the process.

The fact that India bought forward the date they were moving out by almost a year because of the chaos and violence that was ensuing was never discussed in any of my history lessons. Oddly, it was never discussed in my home either, the reason for which I may never know.

This story, about the friendship between the Queen and Abdul – the tall one – is as charming as you may have imagined. While all of her household and children are waiting for her to die so her evil son Albert (Eddie Izzard – brilliant) can take over, Victoria (Judy Dench – brilliant) is completely enthralled by Abdul’s positivity, knowledge and unconditional respect for ‘his Queen’. Dame Judy brings out a warmth in the monarch that I’ve never known about, portrayed as she is as a cold, heartless, bitter old woman throughout history. That is certainly how her treacherous family see her, but this interpretation tells us perhaps why that is.

Quite often I come out of films and say, American’s are so stupid. This time I found myself uttering throughout the film, the English, they were so ignorant. No wonder so much of this bit of British history remains un-talked about. 


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